TAKING FLIGHT: New Albany Drone Cup draws interest
You’ll hear them coming before you ever see one hovering over your head.
Reaching anywhere from 50 to 70 mph, an in-competition drone whips and whizzes through the air. Your eyes might lose it, but your ears won’t.
The rush of speed is what brought locals and travelers to the New Albany Riverfront Amphitheater on Saturday. It was the inaugural New Albany Drone Cup.
“We just came out to see the drones,” said spectator Nick Whitaker, who drove up from Simpsonville with his wife for the event.
“We never experienced it before. We never owned [a drone] or anything like that. … We just wanted to take part and see what it was all about.”
Whitaker said he was amazed at how fast the drones raced through the course laid out in front of the amphitheater.
Qualifying races lasted from about 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The top 16 drone pilots would go on to compete in the main event race at 4 p.m.
Two pilots competed at a time, with each one guiding their aircrafts with a transmitter as they looked through a set of video goggles.The first to maneuver their drone through four laps around and through the amphitheater won.
Clayton Baker, Cincinnati, did just that during qualifiers. His opponent’s drone smacked into a rail, sending the battery flying.
Baker said he got into drone racing two or three years ago after seeing his grandson fly one. That’s when Baker got the “fever.”
“It’s the adrenaline flow. It’s exciting, it’s fun,” he said. “I used to be very competitive in sports and things like that, years ago. This just falls right in place”
For Daniel Nowlin, Louisville, it’s the “nerd” factor that entices him.
“I always worked on computers. I’m in IT, [but] before my profession I built computers on the side and did that type of thing,” Nowlin said.
Now he builds drones. His first one, he’s ashamed to admit, took him at least 10 hours. But now he’s down to two or three hours.
Nowlin said the drone community in Louisville is growing, and there are enough drone-friendly parks and spaces to fly in. Saturday marked the first time he flew a drone in Southern Indiana. Having another city support his sport is “huge,” he said.
The riverfront view and surrounding area was a bonus. Whitaker, the spectator from Simpsonville, said he and his wife took a break from drone watching to eat lunch and shop around downtown New Albany.
“It’s really nice down here … very beautiful setting,” Whitaker said.
He doesn’t have interest in flying his own drone, but ask Whitaker if he found himself getting into the races and the answer is an easy one.
“Oh yea,” he said.